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Freixa’s departure from Amsterdam: logical, or a victim of rejuvenation?

With a strongly rejuvenated selection, Amsterdam coach Santi Freixa had to make a serious shot at the first national title since the 2011/2012 season from his appointment eighteen months ago. Because he has insufficiently succeeded in this, according to Amsterdam, the club does not extend his expiring contract. A logical decision, or are the expectations unrealistic?

“By including many new, young and talented players in the group, Santi has been able to make a nice mark,” Amsterdam wrote on the club website about three weeks ago. ‘At the same time, the desired results have not yet been achieved. After this season, the team will continue to build with a different approach to play hockey at the top for a long time. ‘

Santi Freixa as coach from Amsterdam. Photo: Bart Scheulderman

‘We have not settled Santi on seven games’

Towards the end of the 2018/2019 season, then Amsterdam coach Graham Reid resigned to become the national coach of India. As successor, Amsterdam appointed Freixa, a boy from the club. In 2007 the Spaniard came as a player to Heren 1, with which he became national champion in the 2010/2011 season. As a trainer, he gained experience at Kampong Dames 1 from 2016 to 2019, with which he achieved varying successes. With the Dutch national team, he was assistant to national coach Alyson Annan until the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.

Amsterdam ended in seventh place in the first season led by Freixa – the aborted corona year – after fifteen games. This season, Amsterdam is sixth after seven games, three points behind a playoff spot. Only relegation teams Hurley and Almere won.

‘We have not judged Santi on seven games. There are too few to draw conclusions from, ‘says Klaas Veering, board member of Tophockey Amsterdam. ‘We mainly see structurally that we have to take a step to join the top. We expect that a different coach will be needed for that. ‘

Santi Freixa as assistant to Alyson Annan at the Oranje Dames. Photo: Koen Suyk

Freixa had to build a new team with young, recruited players

Amsterdam has been dreaming of a new league title for nine years. The club wants to participate structurally for the prizes. That has not yet been successful under Freixa, although he also had to build a new team with a lot of young players. Isn’t the story, among other things, that Amsterdam has not selected for years, that it is now finally doing, but it is still unfair to expect the club to have the best team in the Netherlands within one or two years?

‘It is no secret that we may indeed have relied too long on our permanent core internationals. We have performed well with this for years, but we have not been able to take the next step and bind the next batch of the Dutch national team to us’, says Veering.

‘Now we are busy with that rejuvenation. With Floris Middendorp, Brent van Bijnen, Ties Klinkhamer and Teun Kropholler, we have many players from the Dutch Juniors. This year Valentijn Charbon, Daan Dekker (both Almere) and Luke Dommershuijzen (Ede) have joined us. A number of A’s have already played. In that respect, things are going well. I also don’t expect a coach to wave a magic wand and we will have immediate success with all those young players. But we do think we should strive for the step to the top with the guys we have now. Perhaps that is difficult, it is not for nothing that we have not become national champions for so long. But it suits the club to be ambitious. ‘

We think we should strive for the step to the top with the guys we have now. It suits the club to be ambitious.

Veering believes that Amsterdam has the qualities to compete for the prizes. ‘In addition to the large group of young talents in the selection, we have a number of top internationals, including the captain of the Dutch team (Billy Bakker, ed.), As well as a group of fantastic and stable hockey players. Only: we perform too unsteadily. That’s why we’ve come to the conclusion that something needs to change. That is in many things. A number of changes will be made, and we have started with the guidance. ‘

Santi Freixa as Kampong’s coach. Photo: OrangePictures / Hans van der Valk

It’s not that we think Santi is too close to the group or that he coaches too emotionally.

Much has been said and written about Freixa’s appointment eighteen months ago. Is he, now 37 years old, too close to the players he has played with in the past? Isn’t he too emotional down the line? Does he have a good grasp of the trainer’s trade?

However, these are not aspects that have now played a role in Amsterdam’s decision, says Veering. ‘Santi is a super good coach. That is not the problem. What may play a role rather is which coach represents which group at which time. I do think it is an advantage that he comes from Amsterdam. He knows the club well and so do the boys. At times that might be a disadvantage, that’s right. But it’s not that we feel he is too close to the group or that he coaches too emotionally. Nor can we give one reason why we should not continue with him. It’s the whole picture. ‘

It is still unknown who will be the successor to Freixa. Amsterdam is now orientating itself, says Veering. ‘It is not that we already have someone in mind and therefore do not renew Santi’s contract. We are now looking around. We want to think about it carefully. The advantage of the fact that we made the decision about Santi early on is that we now have enough time to find a successor. ‘

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